'A Work In Progress' The Experiences of the First Generation of Korean Adoptees

Survey findings detail challenges of ethnic identity, discrimination, and issues of search and reunion

Contact: Jamie Moss (201) 493-1027

(Washington, D.C., September 9) -- They pioneered intercountry adoption, and now the first generation of Korean adoptees are giving the world the benefit of their varied experiences growing up in a country where they were immediately identified as both "foreign" and adopted.

Today, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, in conjunction with Holt International Children's Services, released the findings of a survey of adult Koreans who were adopted between 1956 and 1985 and who are currently attending the International Gathering of the First Generation of Korean Adoptees in Washington, D.C.

The findings of the survey address many important issues of adoption. Among them:

• EXPERIENCES WITH DISCRIMINATION -- 70 percent of the respondents reported racial discrimination, ranging from simply irritating to truly traumatic, when they were growing up. Many respondents reported that their adopted families struggled with this issue.

• SELF-PERCEPTIONS OF ETHNIC IDENTITY -- The majority of the respondents reported that their views of themselves ethnically changed as they became adults. Over time, the respondents were far more likely to identify and further explore their Korean heritage. One respondent noted that she was "still shaping" her identity and another revealed that she is "still a work in progress."

• INTEREST IN SEARCH AND REUNION -- The respondents were divided on the issue of searching for their birth families. While 22 percent of the respondents had searched or are searching for their birth families and 34 percent were interested in doing so, 44 percent were uncertain or not interested in searching.

• The lessons learned from this unique group of Korean adoptees -- the first and largest group of international adoptees in this country -- are essential," said Madelyn Freundlich, executive director of The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. "The survey chronicles the rich and varied experiences of Korean adoptees from adult perspectives. It provides important information about issues of race, culture, ethnicity, identity, and family. We should remember that these adoptees and their families did not have the benefit of the many adoption resources now available. Their insights are especially meaningful now as growing numbers of people adopt from overseas and create multi-ethnic families." The Washington conference -- which is being attended by more than 400 adoptees -- is co-sponsored by Holt International Children's Services, The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, The Korea Society, and also-known-as, inc. The conference is September 10, 11, & 12 at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C. "One of the most exciting parts of this conference is bringing these Korean adoptees together with members of the Korean community in the United States and providing them with opportunities to experience their Korean culture," said Fred Carriere, Vice President of The Korea Society.

The attendees will participate in workshops and activities that acknowledge the individual adoption experiences and encourage dialogue on issues such as cultural and racial identity and search and reunion; provide an historical overview of Korean adoption; and offer tributes to birth and adoptive parents. Parts of the conference will be available on the Internet at www.holtintl.org

"Approximately 141,000 Korean children were adopted by families in the United States and Europe between 1956 and 1985 and this survey is of only a small number of those individuals" said John Williams, President & CEO of Holt International Children's Services, the largest adoption agency involved in Korean adoptions. "That said, the survey provides us with much needed and valued information that will benefit both professionals and families involved with intercountry adoption."

In addition to the survey findings, another substantive product has emerged as a result of the Gathering. The anthology, "Voices from Another Place", c aptures the creative talents of Korean adoptees through writings, artwork, poems and prose. "In most instances, the creative energy of these people is intricately tied to their ethnicity and Korean culture. Their works reflect both their adoption experience and their Korean heritage." said Susan Cox, Vice President of Holt International Children's Services. "The anthology is yet another way for these adoptees to share a common life experience with others."

The complete survey findings are available at www.adoptioninstitute.org/proed/korfindings.html.

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The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute
120 Wall St. 20th Floor New York, NY 10005
(212) 269-5080
Fax: (212) 269-1962

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